Monday, September 21, 2009
TAMPA, FL – The current leaders of the Costa Rican Primera Division Deportivo Saprissa travels to Bayamon Tuesday evening for the fourth match of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage, facing the USL-1 playoff-bound Puerto Rico Islanders.
While Puerto Rico managed well in balancing both USL and Champions League play last year, the tournament has been slightly more difficult to navigate the second time around for the Islanders, who began the group phase with two matches on the road and found themselves in a hole in advance of last week’s home debut, a 3-3 draw against Mexican power Cruz Azul.
Among the road losses was a tough defeat in Costa Rica in the second match. The Islanders got on the board first courtesy of Domenic Mediate in the 25th minute, but saw the hosts claim the lead before the break and secure the 3-1 win in the second half as standout goalkeeper Bill Gaudette served a suspension.
Balancing league and tournament play for the first time has proven difficult for Saprissa, but the club has managed to maintain its lead in the league despite a tough schedule that has seen them go winless since the start of the group phase. The club opened the season with three league wins, but then dropped their group opener on the road 2-0 to Cruz Azul. Since then they have played to three draws in league play with two coming against fellow league leaders. After downing Puerto Rico, Saprissa played to a 1-1 draw in league play against Group B leader Herediano, the club Cruz Azul eliminated in Champions League Preliminary Round. They were then stunned in a 1-0 loss at home to the Columbus Crew, the first Major League Soccer team to post a win in Costa Rica, before going scoreless against Cartagines, the team just one point back of them in the table along with Alajuelense.
While the club may have managed its league fixtures well, they have only one goal scored in the last three league matches and have just one goal in their last five matches, excluding the 3-1 defeat of the Islanders.
Puerto Rico, meanwhile, is coming into the match on an offensive blitz, having downed Miami FC on the road 3-1 Saturday after the impressive 3-3 draw against Cruz Azul in which three other shots went off the woodwork.